Sunday, March 15, 2009

DevNexus 2009 review

DevNexus is the new name for the Atlanta Java DevCon conference, which is organized and hosted by volunteers from the Atlanta Java User Group (AJUG). The conference was recently re-branded as DevNexus because it's not limited to Java anymore. Don't get me wrong, Java is still a major focus, but there are other languages (some of which run on the JVM) and technologies that AJUG members use and we wanted to include those too.  

DevNexus has expanded to two days this year and may be even bigger next year. Not only that, but it went from two tracks to three, so there were even more tempting talks to choose from.

Speakers ranged from Neal Ford (Meme-Wrangler at ThoughtWorks, well known NFJS speaker, and author of The Productive Programmer) to Emmanuel Bernard (lead developer at JBoss, and spec lead for JSR  303: Bean Validation), to Peter Higgins (project lead for the Dojo toolkit) and Doris Chen and Justin Bolter (Technology Evangelists from Sun); and the topics were just as varied.

After some introductory remarks from Burr Sutter (Java Champion and AJUG top-dog), Neal Ford got the ball rolling Tuesday with his keynote "On the lam from the Furniture Police," which was an excellent look at how to be productive in a corporate environment that seems designed to prevent it. Neal's excellent keynote was followed by four hours of technical break out session on topics like Test Driven Design (not Development), browser optimization (aka getting around browser restrictions), grid computing, and how to create and use RESTful web-services with Java. The official day ended with Emmanuel Bernard's keynote on "Scaling Hibernate" which also gave us a look at some of the new features Hibernate supports, like sharding and full text search capability. After that, there was a "cocktail reception" for people who preferred a friendly chat (sometimes called networking) with other developers and architects over sitting in rush-hour traffic.

Wednesday got off to an interesting start. Doris Chen and Justin Bolter gave their keynote speech titled "JavaFX: The Platform for Rich Internet Applications" which, not surprisingly, promoted JavaFX as the best solution for Java developers who want to build RIAs. This was followed by Yakov Fain's keynote, "Picking the right technology for Rich Internet Applications" which compared Adobe's Flex, Microsoft's Silverlight, and JavaFX. During the speech he stated his belief that JavaFX might be a contender in 2010, but not today. I found this a little disconcerting, having just heard about what JavaFX can do. While I'm not sure I agree with him, I do think Yakov made some good points, though things may change with the release of JavaFX 2.0 slated for later this year. In case you're interested, his recommendation for developers that need to start an RIA project today was to use Flex.

After the clash of the RIA titans, there were three hours of breakouts mostly geared toward RIA or web development; topics included JavaFX, Java and Flex, developing modular Web applications using Spring 3.0, and GWT.  There were also some server-side topics like a JEE 6 preview, a look at Spring 3.0, JSecurity also known as Apache's project 'Ki', anda look at JVM-based dynamic languages in the enterprise.

The conference ended with a rap-session hosted by Burr Sutter, AJUG's main leader and Java Champion, asking for ways to improve the conference next year and how we can get the word out about it so more people will attend. There were several good suggestions, and you've just read part of my solution to the question.

DevNexus was a great conference and well worth the cost (just $185 for the whole thing) so start planning to attend next year; you'll be happy you did. BTW, the price is set so that the costs of the conference are just about covered; this is not a 'for profit' venture, it's part of the way that AJUG works to build the Atlanta Java community. If you want to get involved, start attending the monthly meetings (they're free) and see what you've been missing out on.

If you were there, or wished you were, and have something you'd like to share then please leave a comment.  

Thanks for your attention,


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